Vietnam’s rubber-stamp National Assembly yesterday voted in a new president, who immediately pledged to crack down on corruption following the resignation of his predecessor in an anti-graft campaign.
The appointment of Vo Van Thuong comes during a period of political upheaval in which the all-powerful Communist Party of Vietnam’s anti-graft purge and factional fighting have seen several ministers fired.
Members of the Vietnamese National Assembly elected 52-year-old Thuong — the sole candidate — for a term running until 2026, following the resignation of former Vietnamese president Nguyen Xuan Phuc in January.
In his first statement as president, Thuong said he would be “determined in the fight against corruption and negative phenomena.”
Thuong carried 487 out of 488 votes in the national assembly, Vietnamese state media reported.
Authoritarian Vietnam is run by the party, which is officially led by the general secretary, president and prime minister.
Thuong is seen as close to Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, the most powerful man in the party and the architect of the anti-corruption drive.
The campaign has led to the arrest of dozens of officials, with many of the graft allegations relating to deals done as part of Vietnam’s COVID-19 pandemic response.
The Communist Party ruled in January that Phuc was responsible for wrongdoing by senior ministers under him during his 2016 to 2021 stint as prime minister, before he became president.
Thuong was “an apparatchik” of the system, said Benoit de Treglode, a researcher at the Strategic Research Institute of the Military Academy in Paris.
Thuong has served as deputy head of the Central Steering Committee on Prevention and Control of Corruption and Negative Phenomena since 2021.
He is also head of the party’s central propaganda department, a position that has a powerful grasp over freedom of speech and press in the nation.
“His appointment does not symbolize a turning point,” Treglode said.
Jonathan London, an expert on contemporary Vietnam, said Thuong’s appointment “would mark Nguyen Phu Trong’s latest stroke in his ongoing campaign to shape the party’s present and future.”
The appointment could make him a front-runner to replace Trong at or before the next congress, he said, adding that whether he had strong enough support was unclear.
“There’s an equal chance he’s a transitional figure,” he said.
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